The daily journal of a Fukushima JET. Read the day to day adventures of an ALT,
Assistant Language Teacher (Automatic Language Tape-player)
living in Fukushima Prefecture, or Northeastern Japan.

Saturday Jan. 1st, 2005

I spent New Year's Eve day volunteering at the Bangkok Red Cross. We moved hundreds of thousands of boxes around. They were full of anything imaginable related to emergency needs. Some were big some were small. I learned several words in Thai related to moving things around. I can now say "It's heavy, not heavy, big, small, take it left, right, wait, trash, take it back" and a few others I forget. The word for heavy is Nak which is pronounced "knock". To say it's really heavy you say the word twice Nak Nak. I can't remember the sound the aliens made in Mars Attacks, but it really reminded me of that movie a lot. We would form these long lines and pass things hand to hand. The lines were all over the place and you would hear Knock Knock coming from everywhere. Plus they were in a high pitched voice and I couldn't help but chuckle.

For a while, I stood next to a Sri Lankan man named Ranjit I think. He said he was in southern Thailand and was hit by the wave. He lost his wife and daughter as well as his life. All he had was what he was wearing. He was waiting for the embassy to process his new passport and then he would return home to more devastation. Apart from that depressing tale he seemed to be in good spirits. I think he was here to stay busy and think about something else. He was a nice man. I was truly sad to hear of his loss.

My thoughts go out to all who were affected by the tsunami.

 

Friday Jan 7th, 2005

I will start documenting my trip very shortly. Sorry for the delay.

Here is the link to my trip. Cambodia.

More links will come soon.

 

Tuesday January 11th, 2005

I wasted most of the three day weekend. It was snowing so I didn't feel like getting out much and most of the people I hang out with are either sick or still out of the country. I almost went to Sendai one day just for a day trip, but I really had nothing to do there so I wasn't too motivated to go. I would have bought more books and had coffee at Starbucks and that's about it. Instead I watched movies on Sunday and then hung out with Michelle on Monday.

She had just returned from over two weeks in Vietnam and had many stories to tell. Some people in her group were robbed and others were possibly drugged at a bar. She said the trip was fun, but too eventful. I'm still working on the update for my trip. Actually now I am at school, with no classes of course, and I have my computer so I can make some vacation pages and upload them later.

Saturday night I went out with the girl I think I might be dating. I say that because the culture and language barrier in Japan makes it difficult to know. Even if I were to clarify that it was a date, that has a different meaning. The only definite word I know is the word for lover, which we are not and she wouldn't like me asking about that. It would sound like "let's BECOME lovers", rather than "exactly what is our status". I'm pretty sure we are in the early stages of dating. I asked if I could kiss her on the cheek as I left and it seemed ok. She didn't jump back and hide in the closet at least.

I went over to her apartment, which is actually smaller than mine. We hung out for a bit then walked to the train station and then we rode the train to gohyakugawa (500 Rivers). Go = 5 hyaku = 100 gawa or kawa = river. From there we walked head on into the wind for nearly a kilometer. Actually it would be over a kilometer, because we saw a sign that said the entrance was 500 meters ahead and that was more than halfway.

We were going to the beer garden, even though I am trying to diet. We went and ate and drank for almost two hours, then we caught the train back and hung out at her apartment for another 2 hours or so. We joked around and played cards. I gave her a massage at some point which she really liked. She totally deserved it because her job is so stressful. It's stressful in a good way though, she can see she is making a difference. It's not stressful in some moron manager barking directions at people type of way, she has a good situation. But you always have to be watching the kids since it is a special school, the kids are always running away. They aren't escaping, just running around.

So that went well. I think we are getting together again around Sunday. She lives right near a pizza place so we are going to have pizza and beer and chat more in English. Great diet huh? Well I did go to a nice gym last week and I am going to try to start going on a regular basis even though the gym is a little far. I have to ride a bus then walk a bit. There is a gym closer to my school, but it's old and smells like old man feet and cigarettes. Japanese people go to gyms to work out and then have a smoke during the break. They never make the connection. It's quite amusing actually.

Today I brought my computer in to school since I knew there would be nothing for me to do. Sadly I forgot all the videos I was going to watch are on my separate external drive so I can do that. I have spent the whole day writing this and working on a few other pages. Later I will watch one video I do have on this machine. Tonight, as mentioned above, I am going to try to get to the gym. I really need something to do between getting out of school and eating dinner. Currently I just watch some 2 hour long movie or something so I need to be more creative. It's 2:30 and I am going to get some lunch. I was just typing away and worked right through lunch.

Oh I added the link to Cambodia above.

[later]

OH MY G-G-G-G-G-GAWD!!!!!

I have been sucked into the Twilight Zone or the Outer Limits. For the love of all that is sacred.

I got home at 5 because I wasn't paying attention at school and accidentally stayed until 4:30. So I get here and I am about to change into my gym clothes and go catch the bus to the gym (too far to walk in the snow). I sit down to check email and then make a web update. I just looked up at the clock and it is 9:40. What happened? Seriously, I ran around looking at all the clocks. It's like when you wake up too fast and are freaked out by nothing for a minute.

Computer time is worse than dog minutes. You know how a dog year is equal to 7 human years. Or wait, reverse that. So I guess a dog minute would be like 7 human minutes. ARGH reverse that too. One human minute is like 7 dog minutes and apparently computer time is the same way. One computer hour is 43 dog minutes and 15 chimp seconds. I don't know I am still freaked that I thought I sat down for 30 minutes tops and it was apparently almost 5 hours. I can't even go get something to eat since everything closes at 10. ARGH.

Well the good news is I did get some good updates made on the Cambodia trip. You've got to read this story about Tevy. I had to stop writing it three times, because it was so sad. It's also true.

I'll work on the Thailand part, although there's not much new since I went there last year. I took more Grand Palace pictures so I will add those. I already made an update to the picture page. ARGH. Now I am singing that song again. Pictures Pages with Bill Cosby. It's an old show. http://www.mystiesplace.com/picturepages/pictures.html Ha I forgot a character's name was Mortimer Marker. I think he talked funny, like in a real high pitched voice. Well he was a magic marker. OH MAN, you have got to download the theme and a clip from it. Just the theme song and you will start singing it every time I say Picture Pages from now on. http://www.mystiesplace.com/picturepages/media.html

Oh I just played that song. It is strangely addictive and violent. It's not really violent at all but I wanted to jump around the room. There is something in his voice. It would rock with a break beat behind it. Sorry for trying to sound cool, I really don't know what a break beat is. It would sound cool with a techno dance beat behind it. Man I can't stop singing that song now. ARGH.

Did you know "every time" is two words? Sorry for not being the perfect English teacher, but I always want to type it as one word. then spell checker goes crazy and I space it out. Strange.

This is a complete tangent, if anyone reading this ever watched the Space Giants on TV years (and years) ago, please let me know. I am dying to see it again, it was my favorite show when I was a kid, but I bet it would be horrible now. Still I want to see it. It was the Japanese Godzilla-like show where this robot family lived in a volcano and turned into rockets. Goldar, Silvar, and Gam. Man that sounds stupid now, but it was cool back then. http://www.coolstuffvideos.com/spacegiant.html

As soon as I finish (start then finish) making the DVD of my trip, I will send them out to anyone who wants one at no charge. When I finish I will post something on here and you can get one if you want. It's free, and I will even pay postage since it won't be much.

Ok, I guess I need to get ready for bed. This is bizarre. I feel like I am about to go to the gym, but it's 10pm now. I don't know if I am sleepy since I am stuck on the idea of it being about 6pm. Well either way, I am out for today.

Thursday, Jan 13th, 2005

What is the point in having 6 buses arrive at a bus stop within a ten minute period and then the next one not arrive for another 47 minutes? Seriously, two of the buses even arrive at the same time, but if I happen to miss this 10 minute window I have to wait nearly an hour. Call it cultural difference if you want, I call it poor planning.

It's snowed nearly 1 foot over the past few days. Not all at once, but collectively about 1 foot. It was like 4 inches one day, then 3 inches, and yesterday another 4 or 5 inches. I'm so tired of snow, it has lost its appeal. In Georgia we would get about 1 inch of snow every few years and it was a big thing. When I first got here it was cool, until I realized they don't cancel school for snow, even 6 inches worth. It's just annoying to deal with snow at that level. I can't even really complain because so many people get far more snow than that. People up north get several feet of snow, sometimes they can't even leave their apartment.

Today I was an hour late because I didn't set my alarm, or if I did set it I turned it off without knowing. Last week I bought an electric blanket and a humidifier. The heater dries out the air and causes me to have frequent sore throats. I would go to the doctor and they would say I had no bacteria. It felt exactly like a sore throat so I was really confused, then I made the connection that my sinuses were dry as well. The electric blanket is my favorite purchase so far. I turn it on an hour before I get in bed and when I get in everything is nice and warm. Then when I roll over it's still warm. In the morning it is so hard to get out of bed because it's so warm and cozy.

I think this Sunday I have a date or something with the girl I think I am dating. We are going to have pizza (on my special diet) and speak English and I might give her a back rub. She skis a lot and gets sore. Yea that's the real reason I give her massages.

[later]

Ok, I have something to top the episode recently of 80 students playing soccer with two balls. They are doing it again now with about 80 boys, and again they are using two soccer balls, but today there is about 8 inches of snow on the field. The ball will be kicked and a big spray of snow goes everywhere. Then it will fly a bit and hit the snow and just stop. A boy will run over to it and kick it causing more spray and then it just stops again. It's quite amusing to watch really. Especially because they are having such fun playing.

My supervisor just came over and told me I don't have to go to Matuskou tomorrow. Well that's good in the sense that I now only have to go 6 more times this year, but bad because I will just have to come here again and sit. I can't understand why they just waste me here. I could be at a different school or at the BoE headquarters doing something more productive that sitting and playing computer solitaire. I can't even come in late or leave early. I don't really want to come in late for any lazy reason, I just hate sitting doing nothing.

I have made the initial plans to teach elementary school in a nearby town. I have wanted to teach that level since I got here and I almost backed out of my current situation when I found out I was in high school. Don't get me wrong, I do like the kids, but there is a huge difference in Elementary and High School. Plus the job in the other town actually uses their ALTs. Isn't that strange? Paying someone to move all the way across the Pacific and then actually using them as a native English speaking resource. It's something that will take getting used to. I have heard the ALTs have 4-5 classes a day and are actually involved in planning classes. They apparently do something called a "lesson plan" before class. I will have to check into exactly what that is. The only lesson planning I get here is a teacher telling me what page we are on while we are walking to class, when I have class.

I am used at Kawamata High School, and I am used, though ignored by students at Matsukou. The students at Matsukou will go on to work for a factory or as a plumber or electrician and will never speak English and they know that. They just ignore me in class and talk full volume. The students at Kawamata will go on to have other jobs, usually with more people contact than those from Matsukou, so they listen a little better. They are fun kids and I like them. Most all of them went to Kawamata Junior High School with my friend Michelle. She can be a hard ass when she wants so the kids are a bit scared of her. They love her to death, but are also a bit cautious. When a few kids cut up in class, I look at the seating chart to see where they went to JHS the year before and I tell them I will call the ALT at that school and talk about them. I know all the ALTs in the area so I'm not bluffing. Sometimes I pull out my phone and act like I am dialing and in Japanese I say "Hello Sam sensei, I am at Kawamata HS now and talking to Watanabe Motoko, you remember her?". Then the students eyes get big and they stop talking. It would be great if I could get an ALT to show up at the school one day and act like I called them here because a student was loud. They would never act up again.

One time some students at my base school were being loud and I asked what club they were in. They were in the soccer club and they were acting up because the soccer team was doing very well and most likely going to the finals. The students were talking about how cool it was going to be, and had a bit of confidence because they were school heroes for being on the team. I let it go a while until they reached full volume and full ignoring me mode. Then I kept telling them to be quiet and they would for about 5 minutes. It's really just the full volume that got to me. Finally I said if they don't shut up I will go get the soccer coach and tell him they were causing problems in class. that shut them up for another 5 minutes. Then I told them again. And again. Finally I said, in Japanese "if you turn around and say one more word to him I am going to get the coach, one word, a single sound, if you even breathe at him, if you look near him I am going". That worked for about 10 minutes. The he turned and made a joke of sorts, guess how loud? Full volume.

He thought I was bluffing, and I was for a while, but then I dropped my book on the floor and left the room. I heard the room get dead silent as I walked out. I knew they thought I was still bluffing and just going to walk to the end of the hall and back, and perhaps I would have except for the full volume part, but I was livid. That's one of my pet peeves I can't stand. So I walked toward the teacher's room and happened to pass the soccer coach and the cute assistant P.E. coach in the hall. In my best Japanese I explained the problem and asked him to come with me. We walked into class and everyone's jaws dropped. Why? Because there is usually no discipline in the Japanese classroom and never any consequences so this was a first for them.

There were two ways I could have handled this and I chose the one that is the least Japanese. The Japanese way would have been to say in general that certain kids in the class were loud and to ask his advice. In Japanese culture it's never good to single someone out for something. It's all about the group. I didn't choose that method. I walked over and pointed directly at the main boy and his talk partner. Their faces were stone cold frozen. They had no idea I would actually go this far. I said in Japanese and some English "these boys won't stop talking, they are completely disrupting the class, I have asked them to be quiet several times and they will not stop talking".

Needless to say they never spoke in my class again. Not to each other or even when called upon. Japanese kids have this ability of just out staring you. In the US I might wait a second or two and then say "I don't know" or "I can't answer", but here they just stare at you no matter what you say. A wise teacher learns to move on after a second of staring. Most Japanese teachers just keep asking the kids to say something. That class was one of my best from that point on. A few other classes near it were also better, but not as much as that class in particular. I have no idea what happened to the boys.

Another time at a different school I was less brutal. One girl wouldn't stop talking, but it was more playful than before. She knew I wanted her to be quiet and was whispering, but she wouldn't stop. Finally when we were repeating English sentences I threw in one of my own in Japanese. The entire class ended up saying "Mo-Chan, please stop talking". It was both funny and tactful. Another time a teacher pulled a student in the hall, Mo-Chan ironically, and was yelling at her. It was the class behind us, the one I went to next. When I went there I kept saying, "if you don't stop talking I will call Taka sensei", the teacher that was yelling. They would laugh and get scared and shut up for about 10-15 minutes. The lack of discipline is what kills me. I can't see any logical reason to allow kids to be disruptive. I guarantee if I were to go to a meeting with anyone official and start talking full volume they would tell me to be quiet. I could explain I thought it was perfectly alright since the students are disruptive in class and the teachers never tell them to be quiet. Then I could keep doing it until they said something again and I could explain again that I thought it was alright. Kids talk all the time in class and no one cares. I really think they wouldn't make the connection.

Anyway, elementary school is totally different. Sure there are some loud kids, but the whole vibe is different. There are more games and they learn stuff like numbers and letters and basic vocabulary. in HS all I do is listen to them being taught obscure grammar that even I don't know. Plus they are taught in Japanese. High School students should learn phrases they can use and simple English, not past progressive participle. I just want to have fun in the classroom, and not be so worried about how far we get in some incorrect textbook. Having classes rather than sitting at school would be nice as well. I've also heard some nice perks in the other job such as having vacation time off. That means when there are no students at the school, and no reason for an Assistant Language Teacher to be there, they don't have to be there. All the people I know that work there really like it and have nothing but good things to say about the job. I on the other hand have very few good things to say about my job. I like teaching kids, but more importantly I like being appreciated.

Man so much for just typing for a few minutes. I only meant to sit down and get a few thoughts down. Now it's lunch time. Oh yea, yesterday I went home around 5 after eating sushi at the station. It was snowing like some bizarre artic blizzard  and I wanted to get inside the apartment as soon as possible, so I ate early and headed back. I took some headache medicine and then took a long hot shower. I realized in the shower, that I really love taking hot showers in the winter. I just really love the feeling of hot water on  my cold body. I couldn't get out of the shower, even after my skin was all wrinkly and I had been in for at least 30 minutes. One thing I like about most Japanese showers, except mine, is they have a little stool for you to sit down and scrub your feet. Mine is too small for said stool, but when I go to the local public bath they have one. Man I always feel so clean after going to the public bath. I scrub myself about 4 times with this really good lathery soap and then soak in hot water that I can bare tolerate. It's a good feeling.

Ha, the point of that whole paragraph was to build up to the fact I took the hot shower then sat in front of my computer for a minute. This was around 5:30, maybe 6. I kept dozing off so I got in bed for a minute. "For a minute", famous last words. I woke up at 11 after some bizarre awkward nap. I got up and did some computer stuff and managed to get back in bed around 1am and actually sleep.

I really need to get back to the gym. I went once last week and I think it had a good effect (or affect) on my sleeping ability. I seem to wake up less recently, but it could have something to do with the electric blanket. I think weight loss will help the most. I think just any amount of exercise will help me lose weight. I get the minimal amount now, if that. Sometimes I walk to school if there is not a lot of snow on the ground. Today I took the bus and waited in this long line while a bus pulled up and no one boarded so it left. HELLO? What are we waiting on? Another bus pulled up and I waited the appropriate amount of time then I ran and jumped on the bus. No idea what they are waiting for, but it was a good 50 people or more.

So this coming Saturday I was invited to a party at Yuko's house. She is a nice friend who I met by chance. She emailed the International Association at some point about her friend who was interested in applying to JET. I never wrote back about that, but after a few months I found the email and emailed her to say I was sorry. Then we chatted about something and I invited her to a cookout we had by the river in the summer some time. Just by chance, we were cooking across the river from her friend Natsumi. She came over and said hello. After that we managed to invite Yuko and Natsumi to many parties and events. Now they are independent and get invited by other people and they have been fully integrated into our social circle. Anyway, Yuko invited me to some gathering at her parent's house. Something about a friend of her father who works in the US is visiting. I don't know. I assume I will be the token foreigner decoration, but they will feed me and there will be some wine since they make that in their spare time.

Luckily my thing with Eriko will be Sunday. I just remembered that. They could have overlapped. Glad they didn't. Oh well I am just babbling about anything I am thinking now so I will stop typing for a bit.

[later yet]

So here's an odd thing about the weather here. Yesterday it snowed about 4-5 inches. It was a blizzard all day, plus there was already a few inches on the ground. This morning as I walked to school it was still really cold and there was a lot of snow on the ground. You couldn't see the road or the ground because of all the packed snow. My mom called this morning at around 10am and it was still cold, but not as bad as yesterday and there was plenty of snow on the ground. That's about the time I wrote the thing above about the snow soccer game they were having. So at 2ish, I walked to the store to get lunch. As I walked outside I noticed most of the snow was gone and it was quite warm. I mean actually warm, not just warmer than earlier. I could have been in thin pants and a long sleeve t-shirt and would not have been that cold, slightly cool maybe. The big thing is there was little trace of any snow on the ground. The soccer field was nearly all dirt and what snow was left was clearly wearing thin. such strange weather that changes in a few hours. Several times in the past it has been cold during the day and then noticeably warmer at night. Isn't that odd?

Here are some pictures from the beer garden and the blizzard the other day.

A half eaten plate of meat and seafood with veggies at the beer garden.
We get the all you can eat option.

The grill system we use. Some things are cooked on the surface,
others are boiled in the water. The grill surface is in the shape of Fukushima.
The ocean is to the right, near the Tofu. Niigata is to the left near the mushrooms.
Niigata (knee e gah tah) is where the recent devastating earthquake was.

A not-so-good picture of Eriko. I had to act like I was taking a picture of
the food, because she always puts her hand in front of the camera.

The two wonderful sauces we get. The one on the right is a peanut based sauce.
The one on the left is a Worchester or soy type sauce. They are both good, I love the right one.
Right as in direction, not "the right one" as in good and bad.

You'll need to click on this picture to see it full size so you can see the blizzard. This wasn't the worst part of it, but by then I was outside and didn't want to fiddle with the camera.

Once again, here are the current pages in my Cambodia-Thailand updates.

Cambodia    Angkor Wat    Tevy's Story   

More to come.

Friday, January 14th, 2005

I brought my computer and some videos so I would have something to watch and do. I found out after lunch we can leave around 2-3 so some college can come in and set up the school for the major testing tomorrow. Our students are lucky in that this school is the physical location for the biggest test of their lives. The college entrance exam. So my students have the home advantage. The teachers told me I would not be able to come to school on Saturday or Sunday. I asked how many times they had seen me at school on a weekend.

This was supposed to be sarcasm, but it backfired. The teachers immediately formed a committee, seriously, and started debating the issue. After an hour or so they returned with the number 3. I had come to the school twice on a Sunday for the school festival over two years, and once when the graduation ceremony landed on a Saturday. Wow. I think that's accurate.

Apart from that I've been working on the DVD of my trip. It's going to take a while because I have to capture all the video, organize it, group it into sections, put up titles and captions, make menus, add sound, and then test it over and over on various DVD machines. On top of that there seems to be over 4 hours of video.

Speaking of  "over 4 hours", why don't people just say how much there actually is. Like with the tragic tsunami they said "they expect over 155,000 people will die". Well if it is over 155,000 and you know this, then tell us how much. It would be different if they said "around 155,000" that gives leeway in each direction. The absolute worst thing people can say, and this really bugs me, is "you can save up to $100 or more". Which one is it? Is $100 the maximum limit? Or can you go higher? I hate when people say that and I always ask about it. It usually makes me the life of the party.

So anyway, there is a lot of footage and I have to go through it all. The worst part is I am going to have to delete a lot of files from my computer to capture all the digital video. I am capturing it at full DVD quality which, needless to say, takes up space. So far I cleared out six gigs and it said that would allow 1.5 hours of capture. Ouch. I'm going to have to be stingy about what I include, but there will still be a ton of footage.

As I mentioned earlier, anyone who wants a copy will be able to get one. When it's finished and tested, I'll have people email me their address, anywhere in the world, and I will send one out. No charge. I make enough money to cover postage, plus I love sharing knowledge and information. Maybe the DVD will encourage someone to visit Japan, Thailand, or Cambodia.

Speaking of visit, a friend of mine from college is coming to visit in March. It's good timing, because I have a day off and can take more time off and I have been meaning to get to Kyoto and some other places. Plus it will be good to see her, it's been a few years. I guess it has been at least 6 or so. Dang is that right? 6 years? It seems like only 2 or 3. But she got married in '98 or '99 I think and I haven't seen her since she was married. I think.

Well either way it will be good to see her and show her around Japan. It's going to be strange for her, as it was for me, flying blindly into a foreign country. Luckily I will be there to greet her as she gets off the plane. I can speak enough Japanese for us to survive a week all around Japan. I've got a lot of sights lined up for us.

[later]

Here is a conversation I just had in Japanese. I will write what I should have said afterwards. I was trying to explain something to a teacher and a student about a video they saw me making:

Me: There are no rhinoceroses at the embassy.
Them: What?
Me: In Thailand, there are no rhinoceroses at the embassy.
Them: Really?
Me: Because it's always about 75 degrees, even in the coldest part of winter.
Them: Did other places have rhinoceroses?
Me: Well some did, in the city, but in the country there was no need. Because of the weather.
Them: Why were you at the embassy?
Me: To see Matsui (the famous baseball player with the Yankees).
Them: Matsui was at the embassy in Thailand?
Me: Yes, that's the video I am working on now.
Them: This video is not of the embassy though, nor is Matsui in it. It looks like a ................
Them: Hysterical laughter, involving teachers around me, but not me for a while.

Well I was getting some words mixed up. I was trying to speak only Japanese for the student, because I wanted her to understand it and I didn't want to use English and Japanese as I usually do. It was too much for her to understand if it were all in English. Here are some keys words and other words they are similar to. Then we will review the dialog with the correct words. At least how the dialog went in Ryan's Head.

Rhinoceros = kaba
Wall = kabe

Embassy = taishikan
Gymnasium = taikukan

Matsui = that is the name of the baseball player
Matsuri = festival

Me: There are no walls at the gymnasium.
Them: What?
Me: In Thailand, there are no walls at the gymnasium.
Them: Really?
Me: Because it's always about 75 degrees, even in the coldest part of winter.
Them: Did other places have walls?
Me: Well some did, in the city, but in the country there was no need. Because of the weather.
Them: Why were you at the gymnasium?
Me: To see the festival.
Them:
There was a festival at the gymnasium in Thailand?
Me: Yes, that's the video I am working on now.

Well that was fun. Good times, good times.

My brain always works like that. I make connections. People might remind me of other people, even when most people can't see it. Sometimes when I hear a word I just say another word, almost like Turrets Syndrome. I actually researched that for a while thinking I had it to some degree. I don't, but I do have a mind that makes connections, which is why I do well with triggers or memory mnemonics. It's great in class when we read something and I automatically think of something else. The students always laugh. Like recently there was a line in the text that said "we can show you the way", I would emphasize the phrase "show you" because that's how you say "soy sauce" in Japanese. I do this little dipping sauce gesture and the students giggle. A joke I have, that I love, and others are quite bored of is telling people "if you don't know where to buy soy sauce, I can show you". Get it? Sorry.

Sunday, January 16th

I got back from Yuko's party around midnight. The streets were clear and it was a little warm. More on that later. However, this morning at about 9am I opened the shades to see what the weather was like and it had already snowed at least 6 inches and it is coming down strong. Here I will take a picture from my balcony and show you how much snow.

Click to enlarge it. All that has fallen within 9 hours. Seems like a lot of snow to me. If it keeps snowing this strong it will be thick later. The sad thing is they don't close the schools here  unless the trains stop and the trains stop only when H-E-double L freezes over. Seriously it would have to be strong gale force winds. Did I spell that right? Gale force? I know Gail is a woman's name. Oh well spell check likes it so I'll go with it.

So tonight is my not-so-big-date which might not even be a date, with Eriko. Her last email said she was "really looking forward to seeing me", so if she is not, then I will be giving her a lesson in English about what to say and what not to say to guys. All the messages I get from her lead me to believe she is interested, but when we are together it just seems like we are friends. Perhaps she's one of the good ones and just wants to go really slow. I can live with that as long as we are moving somewhere. Not moving apartments, I mean moving somewhere in our relationship.

So Yuko invited me to a family party last night and it was pretty cool. Her father owns a business that apparently, makes tiles and wine. Yes I know they are completely unrelated, but as far as I could gather, they make and sell tile as in bathroom tile, and they also make and sell wine/sake. He had some homemade wine and sake last night and it was good. Maybe it's a hobby and he just gives the alcohol away to customers. Everyone at the party was related to his business somehow. There were two people from the bank, two grape suppliers, some golfing buddies (one lived in North Carolina for a while), and one of the guys that does the plastering for him.

There were also two foreigners there, myself and April who replaced BJ in Koori town. I had a good time, but drank a little too much. I have learned when to stop and to start drinking water, so I feel fine today. But my body is a little weird now. Just slightly. I want to go to the store and get something to eat, but I really don't want to leave the house now. At least there is no wind at the moment. I hate cold wind.

Tuesday, January 18th, 2005

I think I now possess the 3 best inventions ever made for winter. In reverse order, they are:

My $20 humidifier

My electric blanket

My solid rubber snow shoes.

They aren't solid as in one solid piece of rubber, that would be silly. I couldn't get my feet in them. They are more like continuous so I can walk through near knee high snow or even water and there is no problem. My feet stay dry. When I come home after a hard day of plowing the back forty I can jump in bed and it is already warm. When I roll over to an unexplored part of the bed, it's already warm. It's really hard to get out of the bed in the morning. When my wall heater runs all night and dries out the air, my cheap humidifier comes to the rescue and moisturizes the air. So far winter is ok, I can handle it. Not sure how I got by without these three necessities before. The only other thing I would add is a long North Face jacket, but by the time I can afford that it will be Spring so I will have to wait.

Let's see, what else. Well in class today, yes I had one class, I was discussing what I did during my winter vacation. At one point I mentioned the village day Dada had at his orphanage. He invited local villagers with kids and they played games and had some good food. I told the class, as I was writing it on the board, that on this day all the village people came to his house. Some kid said "YMCA" and I turned around. I asked who said that and they were all quiet. I kept asking who said that and no one would tell me. They just stared at me terrified. Finally after I demanded a kid finally raised his hand. I walked over and said "YMCA?" and he said yes and he was sorry. I made him give me a high five and told him that was really cool that he knew that song. There was a huge sigh of relief.

I sang the song in class a little bit. I exaggerated and moved around while I was singing it, I was acting like I didn't see the students and then I turned and acted surprised. They giggled and we moved on. I guess it is a popular song, but it seems so random that a Japanese high school student would know that. Then again, at the school I don't like going to, there is a boy (in the all girl class) who listens to Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. Man I listened to that stuff when I was his age and that was a good 15 years ago. Man that's wild. I have to go back to the hell school this Friday, but counting this week I only go there 6 more times. I would rather go to Kawamata than to this school. I even use the name of the school to symbolize something I don't like. I often use it as a curse word as in when I drop something on my foot. "Oh Matsukou". ARGH.

I had Chinese food with Liz tonight. We hang out Tuesday nights when we both get back from out traveling schools. I couldn't go because my traveling school, Kawamata, is in the mountains and we just had a heavy snow so they closed it for 3 days.  She went to Adachi and got back around the time I was getting back from sitting all day at Higashi. We hung out for a bit in my apartment and then went to this  Chinese food place that we frequent infrequently. We finally figured out the perfect menu. We always experiment and get a few good things and some bad things. Once we had chewy tongue and it was nasty. Today we had Kimchee meat and veggies, some fried shrimp in cheese sauce, egg drop soup, and something else. It was good.

I had some point that I was building up to by mentioning that Chinese food thing with Liz. It was only an intro to something, but I put so much effort into it, I can't remember where I was going. I'll pause for station identification and if I remember it I will come back later.

Exit tangent. I really need to work on finishing the updates from my trip. I've already got Cambodia up and documented, but I need to post something about Thailand and the orphanage. I will get on that tomorrow perhaps.

Wednesday, January 19th, 2005

I've figured out why I have to come to work and just sit here. Occasionally teachers will come over and ask me to clarify some small point in English. perhaps they are helping students prepare for the ongoing battery of tests and they don't understand some small point. Usually it's no problem, like a moment ago I had to explain what "it" means in the sentences:

You are going to get the flu soon. There is a lot of it going around.

I just explained it was a pronoun and referred back to the flu. Nothing major. Before that a teacher had me find a better word for the following phrase:

In high school I was in the track and field club. My event was the long distance run.

I looked up synonyms for all sorts of words like event, job, activity, duty, part. Then I finally said just say "I did the long distance race". There have been other questions like that all day as well as all this week and last week. So far I have been coming to school for nearly 3 weeks and I have had half of one class. Half.

So the best reason I can find for me having to be here all the time, is like me hiring a doctor to follow me everywhere and explain what every little meaningless pain might be. Or I could have a meteorologist with me all the time to explain the temperature changes and predict the weather. It's extremely wasteful.

I'm not asking to be at home, this school would be one foreign professional sitter short. I just want something to do. I can only ask so much for more classes. I would rather be at the prefectural BoE or at another of my traveling schools, or in Delaware. Well not so much Delaware, that was a Wayne's World reference. I have never had a job where it was more important for me to be at work sitting there doing nothing, than to be somewhere else doing something productive. I've had jobs where there weren't things to do for a few hours, maybe a day, but there was another duty I could do to pass the time. There is nothing to do here, I end up watching movies or reading at school all day.

I can honestly say, without any exaggeration, I have seen more movies, and read more books in the 2.5 years I have been here than in the 30+ years leading up to that. Even better, I have read them all and watched them all on the clock in front of all my bosses, not at home in my own time. I can't believe I would ever ASK for more duties at a job and complain about having too much free time. It sounds so whiny, but I actually want to do something while I am here.

I made more updates to the Cambodia / Thailand trip. I added links to Dada's Boys. I also added the new Grand Palace page, and there is other information on my page from last year. Also, I added a page about my 3rd visit to the Imperial Palace in Tokyo where the Imperial Family waved at me. Is it waved TO me or waved AT me? Either way, there was waving. I'll add more pages soon, but there are only a few more to add. I would say up to 80% or more have been added.

It's sad. I have my headphones on and I really feel like typing, but I have nothing else to say. I had no classes today and watched the end of Season 3 of the Sopranos and some Star Trek on my computer. Then I came home and then went to eat with Michelle. Oh, I just remember what I can type about. The ridiculous insane ignorant donkey system called  Japanese Air Travel. I will need to draw a map to completely explain this. Be right back.

This map is perfect. It's Pacific centered and has faint gridlines. First of all see that Japan is about as big as Atlanta to New York. The part of Japan that is above the line is Hokkaido then Russia. For the most part it stops just above the line, at least the parts I am talking about. Ok, I can fly from Atlanta to New York for $100 each way, so $200-ish total. My friend is coming from Atlanta in March and her ticket was around $800. Ok, following me so far? All the way around the world for $800, or a short distance for $200. Or.......

I can fly the length of Japan, from the gridline to the bottom part, in May for:

 

 

 

 

$1,000

One Thousand Dollars. A two hour domestic flight in Japan, costs more than a trans-Pacific 14 hour flight.

 

One entry found for absurd.

Entry Word: absurd
Function: adjective
Text:
Synonyms FOOLISH 2, ||balmy, crazy, harebrained, insane, loony, ||potty, preposterous, silly, wacky
Related Words comic, droll, funny; asinine, fatuous, simple; irrational, unreasonable

 

Welcome to the planet Absurdia. I was thinking about a trip to Okinawa for a holiday time I have in May. I was going to fly to Kyushu and then take a ferry down to the islands, and maybe venture over to Taiwan for a few days. When I checked with the travel agent I nearly #@&$ a small #@%&, the kind with the pointy things too. I could take a ferry all the way down there, but it would be a 3 day trip and still cost $400 each way. So I'm not sure what I will be doing now. This falls into the ARGH category. I really want to travel while I am here and have 11 days off, but I can't afford to leave this island, even by boat.

Thursday, January 20th, 2005

I need some kind of award to acknowledge my brilliance. At least for something I did today. It truly falls into the category or masterful forethought, I was really planning ahead when I did this...

I called in today and said I wouldn't be there. It was no problem, since I have no classes, but of course I have to use vacation day. So I go back to sleep for a bit since the bed is warm and it's cold outside. It's a nice day, but really cold. So then I realize I really need to do laundry so I gather the necessities such as  underwear and socks, and take them down to the laundry room. I dump them all in and return. I am wearing my pajama bottoms and my warm fleece slippers and a t-shirt. I get back here and clean a bit then return after 30 minutes, which is the laundry cycle time.

The 2 of 3 functional dryers are full so I come back up to the apartment. Later a dryer opened and I put my socks and undies in. That was around 9:30. Now it's noon and I want to get something to eat, but, in my brilliance, all my socks are in the dryer. I can't wear my slippers out on the town and I really have NO other socks. I can't go without socks, because my feet were freezing through the slippers. So I am trapped until my socks dry. Brilliant. Simply brilliant.

Wednesday, January 26th, 2005

I had a big update to make today, but I can't find the list of topics I made. Argh. I have a smaller sub list at school tomorrow. I will bring it home and possibly form a search party for the other list. Hmmm. Need I mention still no classes at my base school since the new year? I've been having some mild panic anxiety attacks (probably not actual ones) because I have to start thinking about what I will do next year. Next year as in after August. I want to work for a neighboring town in their Elementary School program, but that is hard to get into. If I don't get that I might move to Tokyo and find something. I really want to get much better at the language before I return to the US, if I even return.

Tonight I went to Curry House with Liz. It's popular among many Fukushima JETs. She needed to go to the Post Office and the main branch (I guess it's not a branch if it's the main one) is right by said Curry House.

That's not the one we go to, but it's the same sign. At least some mental image will help. Anyway, many Japanese restaurants have this cool feature where you press a button when you want service. This place has that feature. So today I sit down waiting for Liz and the clerk comes over and gives me the spiel and some water. Then she said when I need service I should press the button. I look over out of instinct and notice there is no button for some reason. Most likely it is because some punks stole it since they are a novelty I guess. If I were going to steal one I would come back to the place often and press the button just to watch the clerks constantly go to some table that didn't request service.

Anyway, she goes in the back and then returns and tells me to just wave her down when I am ready to order. A bit later Liz comes in and we are ready. Wouldn't you think the clerk would remember my lack of button situation and keep an eye on me? I waved and called and stood up and waved some more. The worst part was some people were sitting near us and thought we were stupid foreigners who didn't know about the button. We know about the button, however, we are lacking said button.

So finally I lean over to a nearby table and press the button (located on that table). It lights up a number on the wall, and the clerk looks at it. Then she looks at the booth it relates to and sees there is no one there and assumes it must be a mistake. She cancels the call and doesn't come over. After a minute, which is a long time to wait for a clerk in Japan, I go back over and press it again, and this time I stay there, but this time the clerk looks at the wall and remembers the number belongs to an empty booth and cancels it without looking at the non-empty booth. ARGH. Lady what are you doing? So I stand up and quite too-loudly yell for her.

The people in the booth beside us are annoyed and turn and say "just press the button". I ask what button and they start point at the table where the button should be, but is not. Then I say "where" again and start pressing things like menus and sauces. I keep pressing the curry sauce jar like it is a button. They never picked up we had no button, they just thought I was stupid.

That's like when I was on the flight back from Cambodia and had a stupid creature eating me alive, or whatever it was. I had to go potty several times and I was afraid I would have to vomit on the plane. The worst part of that would not be the expulsion of nothing or the gagging, but the idea that people around me would think I was sick because we were flying. Like maybe it was my first flight or something. If I were to vomit I would have to loudly explain over and over again to my friends (hoping others would hear) that my stomach was still upset from the bad food I ate. Heaven forbid people think I am scared of flying.

Recently, for no apparent reason, my left side of my left foot has been hurting. Occasionally it hurts really bad and I have to limp when I walk. Other times I can barely feel it. Oddly it doesn't hurt when I touch it or massage it or when I am walking around in socks at home. Just when I put on outdoor shoes. When I wear my flops at school with the raised part in the middle it doesn't hurt either. I have been coating it with the Japanese equivalent of Ben-Gay, but not as strong. I think it might be a crushed larynx. Er, wait..no that would mean I couldn't talk. I watch too much CSI. Maybe I am thinking of fallen arch. But it's just the left side outside. It's odd.

Oh last Saturday I went to the Funkadelica party in Iwaki, the beach town of Fukushima. John, the guy who throws the big beach parties and other parties in Iwaki threw this one. His party site is Iwaki Phoenix. His parties are under the Phoenix Krewe. I added the Krewe part, but it's just the organization he uses to have parties. Here are some pictures I took. Remember it was much cooler than this, but the flash caught a split second in time and made things look stupid.

There was no contest, but two people came in roller skates.
HARDCORE.

This is why I don't like taking pictures in the dark with a flash.
They are dancing, but it looks like he punching her in the crotch.
She is smiling though, maybe it's what the young hip crowd is doing.
I'll try it next time I am at a club. Crotch Punching.

(Sam left Tom right)

The party was at an Italian restaurant. They don't have events like this, but John convinced them to
move the chairs and tables out and set up like a club. It worked out fine. The bar staff was into it.

Sir John, the party thrower.

I need to check and see what updates I still haven't made from the Thai-Cambodia trip. I'll do that later. I am going to take my computer to school tomorrow so I will make a big update there. I've actually not taken it these past two days. I've been reading a book and working on a grammar module from the TEFL course I am taking. I should be TEFL certified in a month or so. That an a dollar will buy my a drink at the store. But at least I can say I did something while I was here sitting. I'm going to watch a 6 week old episode of "Lost" that my parents sent me. Be back later.

Thursday, January 27th, 2005

Well I did find my two notes with topics for the journal, though I've already touched on most of what was on the notes. One thing was Tuesday was Entrance Exam day so there were no students. Junior High students came in from all around to test and interview for admission to Higashi SHS. My school is one of the top academic schools in the area second to Minami SHS and maybe Nishi. Higashi means East, Minami means South, and Nishi means West. Sadly, Kita, the North school, is not an academic school.

ARGH !!!!

I have to get more RAM for this computer. I already have 512mb, but I have all these stupid programs that load into memory when I start up and that takes up all my space. The computer then starts using a page file, which means it writes things to a temporary file on the hard drive, but that takes 6 years to load anything. A student just came by and I wanted to show her my High School graduation since my dad sent a DVD copy of it. It was on video, but he burned it to a DVD. I had ten minutes during the break and the computer wouldn't load the file. It just sat there with the HD activity light flashing like crazy, but not actually doing anything. I tried to end the program about 10 times and that took too long as well. Finally I said just come back later and I will figure it out. ARGH.

So Tuesday was test day as I mentioned. I didn't go to Kawamata since it was test day all over the prefecture. On Monday, I thought I slipped into a time space continuum of rationale thought, but it was an illusion. My supervisor told me there would be no classes on Tuesday and no students so I will have nothing to do. Then he said they had a meeting at 8am instead of 8:30. Then I thought the logic was on its way. He said since there are no classes and no students, I don't have to......I don't........I.........I.........can show up on time rather than at 8 for the meeting.

Nope, why would I even think he was going to let me off or at the very least come in late. My job on the planet Absurdia is to provide energy by sitting. They have developed a new system where useable energy as well as English skills are pulled from me using osmosis. That explains why it is so important for me to be here sitting doing nothing, because in fact I am actually providing energy for Japan. Well I feel better now.

One thing I really hate is people talking loudly in movies. At least have the common sense to whisper in a movie. The same is during the morning meeting. My supervisor occasionally leans over and explains something to me in loud English while the meeting is going on. A) I can usually gather what is going on from who is speaking and some basic words, B) it's always something that can wait until the meeting is over, and C) do you have no volume control? Seriously full volume. Do you not see other teachers staring at us? Well since students talk full volume in class and teachers never say anything to them about it because that abstract western concept of "discipline" hasn't caught on here, I guess people just grow up thinking full volume is ok.

On the way to school this morning, as with every morning, I pass a construction site. They re nearly finished with the huge building right by the station and now they are doing things to the front which means I frequently have to change sides of the road. This morning I didn't have to changes sides and I am now wondering why I explained all that when it was irrelevant. Anyway, I was walking and a truck started backing into an entrance. They have guards at each gate to direct traffic in situations like this. They also tell people to stop walking down the sidewalks when a truck is leaving or entering.

On this day, I was about 100 feet away from the truck, which was a small truck maybe 20 feet long. The gate guard stopped traffic so the truck could maneuver in the road. Then the gate guard turned to me and politely bowed and held up his light stick to symbolize me stopping. I was walking fast so I started slowing down. I was still nearly 60-80 feet from the small truck. It could have exploded and I wouldn't be injured. I start slowing down and the guard turns around again, as if to politely remind me to be careful and stop walking. I'm still slowing down and still far enough away that I might have been in a different zip code. He is whistling beeps at the truck to tell him to keep backing up, then he turns to me again and more forcefully says stop. I am still well beyond the clear zone. This continues again until he turns to me and puts up both hands and blows the whistle as if to say STOP NOW.

As you are reading this you are thinking it was my fault, I was just too close and he was being cautious. But the truth is I was at least 50-75 feet away from the gate and there is no way I could have been injured. I was so far I wasn't even sure he was talking to me. I came to a dead stop and even leaned into it a bit as a mime might do. When the truck was completely inside he let me pass. I made a point to walk way out into the street to get away from the truck in case it was carrying dynamite carpet or something. It was just strange.

Something I hate in general is when things go on well past the end point. Usually there is an obvious end point to something and there are times when that is not respected and whatever it is just continues. For example, in Thailand we went to a performance at another orphanage. It had a start point, and then it built up, and then a finale. Then after the finale people got on stage and did the same song over and over for hours. I had to leave, it was just well beyond what I could handle. Sometimes a local band, not in Thailand, will play a show and then play a big finale type song, and then play another song. It's like we finished and they just don't want to get off the stage. Again in Thailand at the school, we had a festival and then went to a local shrine while we waited for the truck to come back. At some point we were finished with the shrine and just wanted to go back, but we had to wait there. I passed 7 levels of "well past the end point" to the point I just didn't care anymore.

I feel like I am in that situation in JET now. I really think I shouldn't have stayed a 3rd year. It no longer feels right. I am just walking on a treadmill until July when I move on to something else. My school seems to feel the same way. I don't have any classes and I think they just want the new person to come in. Hopefully that person will have more classes. There are other signs as well, but they are not important. I feel a little jipped about renewing for my 3rd year. I asked for more classes and for a while I had more classes, even some with the Social Studies teacher. So I was excited. I even renewed as Database Coordinator with AJET so I could make some more changes and really streamline it. The one thing that has kept me hanging on was being the Chairman of FuJET, the Fukushima JET group. A few of us wrote a book last year called the Kanji Survival Guide and it sold big at the summer orientation. We have used that money for trips and classes and donated some to the orphanage. But as that winds to an end, I am just left with school and my life. If it weren't for the kids, I might consider just packing up and leaving early, though I have no where to go really.

As I mentioned above, I am nearly finished with my TEFL certification. One thing I don't like about it is it's a British company, which is fine, but in many cases they are trying force people to speak in British English. I don't think either language is right or wrong, just different. I know American English and that's what I teach, but if someone asks me something I know to be British, I don't say it's wrong, just different and I explain it the best I can. In the grammar book I am working on, they keep saying "answer in the British way". I DON'T KNOW THE BRITISH WAY. Ergo, I can't answer in that way. That's annoying, they should make it neutral if they want more Americans to do it.

[later]

I just made a kitten faint.

How pathetic is that? I was walking to the store to get pictures made from my memory card. On the way there is a pet store. There is a cage in the window that usually has a puppy. This time I saw a little pink ballerina type dress. I leaned over to look and it was an adorable grey kitten. It slowly woke up and looked around. When it caught my huge head right in the window its eyes opened wide and then closed and it rolled over. A few seconds later it opened its eyes again and looked at me. Then it got up and walked over to the corner of the cage and stared at the huge foreigner. Wow, that's going on my resume. Professional Sitter with ability to communicate with corn and make kittens faint.

I went back for a picture, I used my mobile phone and it's old (a year old) so the picture is small.

Anyway, they have this really cool feature where you can take a CD or even a digital camera memory stick to the photo shop and they can make a print from that. They probably have this in the US as well as other countries, but I don't know. I took about 13 pictures that really highlight my trip and had them printed out to what's called 2L size here. That seems to be a bit bigger than 5x7. Then I color copied them to an even bigger size so I can show them in class and then put them on the bulletin board.

[later]

I just made a partial payment for the Sapporo Snow Festival. I went to the ATM and took out $9,000. Isn't that insane? I can remember when US ATMs would only allow $200 at a time, and many restrict it to $500 now, but I can take out $9,000. The limit is $10,000. How much cash is in one of those machines anyway? Then I walked over to the travel agent and handed her the stack. Wow that was fun. I get to go back tomorrow and give her the rest of it.

Look at that. It's as tall as my thumb, and that's only half of what I owe. If the machine would have let me take out the full amount it would have been nearly twice as big. Wowzers. I am getting a new mobile phone soon which should have a bigger camera on it. Some have 1-2 megapixel cameras on them, but the one I want doesn't. That's not a huge feature for me so I am not getting it. More on that soon.

Tonight I am going to see Ocean's 12 with Eriko. Then we are going to eat somewhere. I am pretty sure we are dating, but still not entirely sure. That's great. Cultural differences rule.

Look at this "money shot" that one of the people on the orphanage trip took. It's a monk looking over a balcony from a distance. The reason it was taken from a distance is the photographer is female and women can't touch monks in Thailand. If they even touch one the monks lose their monkness. Seriously, they are disgraced and become regular people again. So when women are near, especially foreign women who might not know these customs, the monks would scamper away. She was about 100 feet away. It's a good postcard shot.

It should have some caption like "peace" or "at ease" or "calm".

When I posted the picture of the earth and explained how ridiculous airfares were in Japan, some people emailed and posted to the guestbook, that it was expected since it was a vacation time. Well I have a new twist in that theory. See below.

The big long orange-ish line is from Atlanta to Tokyo. That costs about $800.

The small black like is from Sendai to Fukuoka, a city on the bottom island of Japan.
Considerably smaller distance correct? During NON-peak travel season,
the regular fare from Sendai to Fukuoka is $700. Or I can fly to the US for $100 more.

I do in fact live on the planet Absurdia.

I wish I could draw, I would make a cartoon about it. The people would be called Absurdians. I could be on a program to teach them the Earth language. Hmmm, I'm going to investigate this in a further like manner.

Saturday, Jan 29th, 2005

I made out like a bandit today. Liz came over around 9am so we could go shopping at a local department store that is closing soon. They are having some massive sale with things up to %70 off (or more). I had no intention of buying anything since money is tight this month. As we are leaving my apartment, my one year old jacket bursts at the zipper. I zip it again and the zipper just fails. It can't handle the enormous girth that is my torso.  So I walk there with the jacket open and now considering buying a new coat. I really didn't want to buy one since it will only be cold for another month or so, but I figured I would look anyway.

When I get to the coat section, they had some $180 Columbia jackets marked down to $80. Man they were nice and warm, but a teeny tiny bit too tight. Just slightly really. So Then I found a New Balance jacket that fit a teeny bit better and was super warm. It was $200 marked down to $60. Well I couldn't pass that up so I got it. On the way out I found some long johns thermal underwear things for $10 as well as some nice thick cotton fleece type gloves for $10 also. So I got those and we returned to my apartment. I put on the new coat and we headed back to the station to catch a bus to Sendai for the day.

In Sendai we first went to Starbucks coffee and I had the Venti Caramel Frappucino. Then we went downstairs to the book store called Maruzen, which might mean complete circle. They had a huge sale on foreign books so I ended up buying a bunch. I got one I have wanted to read for a while called Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, by Chuck Barris. The guy behind, The Gong Show, The Dating Game, The Newlywed Game, and others I'm sure. Another one I bought that sounded cool, but I had never heard of is Bringing Down the House. It's a story about how 6 M.I.T. students and teachers beat Vegas for millions. Finally I got Al Franken's Lies and the Lying Liars that are Telling Them. I like his humor and easy going outlook on politics. Most political books are too much to read, but his seem ok. Plus I happen to agree with most of his opinions. Oh, I also bought a book on basic linguistics, as well as a Japanese cookbook, and something else. Most everything was marked down to $5 so I could afford them all, full price it would have been closer to $150 I think.

So then we ate at Yoshinoya, which is one of our favorite places. It's a bowl of rice and some beef strips on it for pocket change. It's a great place to eat on a budget, but I like the food either way. After that I checked out a Vodafone store, which is the company I use for my mobile phone service. I have to get a new phone soon and this is the one I think I will get. It's the Motorola 702MO. It's got all sorts of features and I think I can get it cheaper than listed. It can make video calls to other uses with the same phone, but most of all I can use it in other countries. Granted it's like $3 a minute, but in emergencies it would be handy. We could have used a phone like that in Thailand when we heard about the Tsunami. We had to buy a mobile phone calling card and then call at odd hours. Anyway, if you are curious about the word tsunami, here is the kanji and meaning:

So it means harbor wave, which seems to make sense. Anyway, after eating and looking at the phone we went to bus station where no less than 900 people were in line for the Fukushima bus. Really it was about 60, which means the bus would be packed and we would have to sit in those stupid little middle seats, so we opted for the next bus. When I asked the guy he thought we were stupid since he saw us standing there and as soon as the bus left we asked when the next one would be. In his mind there is nothing wrong with the middle seat and we should have gotten on the bus, but he is not a 6'3" foreigner in a land of not-as-tall people. So anyway the bus came and we had seats and we got back around 7. We watched some TV shows on videos my parents sent and then had gyoza. She just left and I am getting ready for bed, but I wanted to make note of my jacket purchase.